Monday, July 16, 2012

Staining Oak Woodwork

I fully intended to get started with staining the interior front door and sidelight woodwork this last weekend, but after trying out various stains and combinations of stains and multiple layers of various combinations of stains all week, I knew I needed to take a break and figure out what the hell I was doing.

I want really dark woodwork - dark like you're lost in the haunted forest at night with no moon dark.
My inspiration is the house in that movie Practical Magic.  Of course it is a witch's house and the dark-stained floors and woodwork are perfect for that mysterious "witches live here" old mansion look.
But I'm dealing with oak woodwork - some of it salvaged 1922 old growth oak and some of it new.  I'm finding that oak doesn't like to stain as dark as I would like.
I tried mixing Ebony in with the Dark Walnut and that wasn't getting the right effect.  Then I tried a light wash of watered down black paint followed by Dark Walnut and that was getting closer.  After doing some research on the internet, I think I may have the solution.  I was reading that to get a really dark stain on oak, one can use a water-based dye followed by a stain.  So I ordered two of the dyes, a Dark Walnut and one that looked even darker, Dark Brown, because even darker is what I want : - )

So I had to tell the husband to settle down because he just wants the staining to start - just get the thing done!  He will just have to have some patience.  Needless to say, he is not obsessed with the fiddly details like I am.

Oh and I ordered a wood screen door for the front and also wood screens for the sidelights.  Our door guy, Jeff, was supposed to make these for us before he left for another job, but you know how that goes.  Luckily, I found Coppa Woodworking and they are in Redondo Beach, so I can drive over and get them when they are finished.  I ordered the most simple wood screen door (so as not to detract from the nice diamond-paned pattern on the front door) in Doug Fir, unfinished, with no screening.  Same for the sidelights - just the frames, then we will prime, paint and use the copper/bronze screening roll that I purchased and put half-round moulding over where the screening attaches.

I found some great spring-loaded hinges from my new favorite long-distance salvage store - Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage up in Oregon.  I discovered them when I was searching for window screen hardware and they had 11 pairs of original Stanley window screen hangers - new old stock - with a cute little bag of original screws.
And only $3 a pair!  Of course I bought all of the pairs.

Screen door hardware from House of Antique hardware is on the way and that should be all I need.  Somehow anytime I order something from House of Antique hardware, it is on back-order.  I am beginning to wonder if they wait until they get an order before getting their stock : - )  I'm sure that's not the case.  I really wanted to use some salvage screen door hardware that I had - the knob and mortise lock, etc, but unfortunately the mortise lock was broken and unfixable, so I had to go with the repro stuff.  David is happy though because the repro one won't have to be mortised in like the old one would.  He dodged a bullet on that one.
 Pretty PD : - )

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Work Starts on the Front Door and Sidelights


A friend of mine with a little 1930s Tudor house in Hemet, CA gave me the phone number of a guy he used to put in a new (old) back door at his house.  Jeff came highly recommended to do a great job hanging doors and installing old mortise locks – just the things we needed for our front door project.  When Jeff came out to take a look at the job, he was really enthusiastic and said he really wanted to work on our project and it would probably take about 2 days to get the crappy old door and sidelights out and the new salvaged door and sidelights in.  My husband David and I had already built the jambs, but something went horribly wrong with the door jamb somewhere in the last two years as it sat gathering dust in the garage and by the time Jeff started the project, it didn’t fit and he had to build a new one.  Maybe it was the flood, or perhaps incorrect measurements, we’re blaming it on the flood.
 Working on the door a couple of years ago

Anyway, Jeff got started and the first thing he did was demo the old door and sidelights and then he started doing whatever it was he did.  I don’t know because I was at work.  David was at home herding cats because we just got a new kitten and our cat Pandora hates the cute little baby kitty, so keeping the cats in separate places is a must.
 And that’s kind of tough with a big gaping hole in the living room where your front door used to be.  So mid-week Jeff is grumbling about working on old houses and the words “can of worms” were used as I recall, but things started coming together and I came home on the fourth day to sidelights, but still no door.  Day five the door was installed and man oh man, we were excited!  I had stripped the door and sidelights a couple of years ago and put the colored glass at the top in the diamond panes and to finally get to see the full effect with the afternoon sunlight was well worth the wait.
 So after 7 days (things really do take 3 times as long and cost 3 times as much!), we had our new old front door and sidelights with hardware.  Yay!
Time for me to get out there and caulk and prime and paint, which I did all last weekend.  I spent a couple of hours at the Benjamin Moore store working with the lovely Connie trying to match the original brown of the old stained shingles.  If only someone hadn’t painted the house yellow!  There’s no going back to the beautiful old stain now.  My only hope was to find a paint color that would look close.  Finally Connie tried using Van Buren Brown, but she left out all of the white which was killing the color and making it too dull and gray and, voila!  Success!   A nearly perfect match!  I got it in flat, to further attempt to look more like the original stain.  I was so excited because although we painted over the ugly yellow back in 2000, the house has always been kind of a chocolate brown house ever since.  I love chocolate, but not on my house : - )  Finally, a nice dark brown that works.

For the trim, I used Brookside Moss (also from Benjamin Moore) – it is this crazy yellow/green color that is really lively and kind of quirky/artisty and I absolutely love it.  I paired it with my original sage green color on the sash and door, Dragonfly Wing (a Home Depot color that I had mixed up at Benjamin Moore because I like their paint better).
So the yellow/green and the slightly darker grey/green look great together and pick up the colors in the front yard, especially the cactus along the driveway – oh and the color of my cat, Pandora’s eyes : - )
I plan on painting the house the dark brown, original shingle color and I will also paint the gable fascia and side trim that dark brown and just have the green combo on the doors and windows and a little bit on the porch.  I like that look where the gable and side trim don’t stand out, especially because my gable is so unremarkable – there’s no point in calling attention to it – yawn.
Next weekend will be the second coat of paint and hopefully a start on staining the woodwork on the inside.  Stay tuned …

A Little History

My house is a little (1,100 square foot) cottage that started life on one of the ranchos of old San Juan Capistrano.
Some say it may have been a bunkhouse on the ranch – no one is really sure just what it was used for.  I like to imagine it was used by an artist as a little art studio.  A lot of the California Impressionists used to stay at the local ranches and paint on location.  But I digress …  It was owned by the Ross Family and in 1931, David and Iza Ross had the little house moved to its current location a couple of blocks away from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission.
I believe the house was just over 700 square feet originally, but a back, shed-roof addition was added, maybe after it was moved in 1931.  The house was originally single-wall construction with dark brown stained shingles.
Unfortunately, when we bought it in 2000, it had been painted bright yellow and most of the original doors and windows had been removed, probably because one of the owners decided to build up the thin outside walls with 2x4s and put insulation in between and when the wall more than doubled in size, I suppose the old windows wouldn’t fit anymore – or maybe they had deteriorated to such a degree, that they just didn’t want to deal with them.  Whatever the case, the challenge now is to put back in period-appropriate windows and doors, old lighting and about a million other things.
As an artist, I’m a big fan of the early Arts & Crafts/Art Nouveau ideas and in the tradition of Bailley Scott, Voysey and Mackintosh, my desire is to make my little cottage a “House Beautiful.”  I plan on keeping the outside as original as possible, but want to make the inside into a little jewel box of early 20th Century ornament and design.  This blog will not only show the restoration work involved, but will follow the journey of my little “Artistic House.”

The Beginning

I love old houses.  There’s just something about them that makes me happy the minute I walk through the door.  Maybe it’s the ghosts of all the people and time gone by that resonates there, but whatever the reason, I’m most comfortable in an old house.  My favorite old houses are the abandoned, derelict ones with all of their original details there just waiting for someone to rescue them.
This is my story about my little old house in San Juan Capistrano.  My husband and I bought our 1915 cottage in 2000 and over the past 12 years we have built a new garage/art studio with studio apartment above in behind our little house.  We did most of the work ourselves, only hiring out the plumbing and electrical and some of the framing.
 Original garage with dirt floor.  Held together by way of termites all holding hands.
 I wanted the building to look a similar age as our cottage, so I salvaged old doors and windows and found antique lighting and hardware and went as far as using antique ceiling fans that I had restored.
 Upstairs new building - studio apartment.
 And after the dust settled.
 Now, finally we get to the fun part … working on our house!  I have waited 12 years and have stockpiled a small trailer-full of salvaged parts and I’m ready for the fun to begin.